Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Creature Double Feature

More of Alice Neel's double portraits, this time people with pets. I absolutely LOVE these.

(I have my old friend Carlo Pittore to thank for this book - it is part of his collection that was donated to the MECA library after his death. I love taking books out of the MECA library and later finding Carlo's sticker in the front of the book - it always feels like I'm back in his apartment, and he's pulled it off the shelf for me to look at!)

Alice Neel struggled with mental illness during her lifetime. She was a very sensitive child. I relate so strongly to this passage about Alice from Collecting Souls, Gathering Dust:

"She felt that she had never been able to ask for room for her nervousness. 'I'd never been able just to say, Look. I'm frightfully nervous."

This leads me to speak of another interesting book that one of my therapists told me to read, The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine Aron.

The one major point that I took away from reading that book is that we need sensitive people in the world, just as much as we need practical people, and analytical people. We need artists, with all their sensitivity! Yet often the qualities that make an artist are maligned by our society. I grew up with descriptive comments like, Martha's a Nervous Nellie, or She's a High Strung Fillie, or She's Too Sensitive, or She's had Too Much Therapy, or Martha, there's Something Wrong with Your Head. For me it all translated to, Martha, You're Crazy.

Like Alice, I did not feel that there was room for my sensitivity. I knew that it made others uncomfortable and I felt judged. So I learned to swallow it down. This caused eventual emotional implosions - panic attacks.

I am fascinated by the link between artists and mental illness, and wonder if in many instances, people merely have not had the permission to be who they need to be?

There's a terrific line from an old Bonnie Rait song that goes:

It's gonna take a whole lotta medicine darlin' for me to pretend that I'm somebody else.
Alice Neel:
Eddie Zuckermandel, 1948
Hartley and the Cat, 1969
Richard Neel with Dog, 1954
Elizabeth and Lushka, 1976
Ginny and the Parrot, 1970


Don Gray said...

Your work has such an apparent kinship with Neel, without being derivitave at all. You both work boldly, with great intensity of focus. I think you have in common a desire to express inner reactions to outward appearances.

Martha Miller said...

I've always wanted to turn over the rocks and expose what's wiggling underneath. (My sister Sue who understands astrology would say it has something to do with the position of Pluto and the Moon in my chart...) Translated: I need to express the truth, no matter how wiggly and uncomfortable! :^)

Thanks, Don.

erin may said...

hi martha,
can you tell me what is the book that you pulled these images from?
i'm looking for information about the painting "eddie zuckermandel" -- things such as where the painting is located, what collection it belongs to, what is the medium and size, etc.
thank you,
erin may thompson ethompson@meca.edu